As a result of my renewed interest in all the Redgraves, I recently saw Georgy Girl for the first time. It is a somewhat ugly comedy, and its conscious ugliness and deliberate shocks may date it.
The personalities and actions of the characters make for a hectic pace but a dramatically (almost pretentiously) photographed pace — with editing to match its jump cuts. Lynn Redgrave is impressive, especially in her vulnerability. Her very effective performance is in part the result of editing, by which I mean planned shots by director and photographer. I am always curious to know how much of the editing we see in a final cut is written into the screenplay. I am not addressing here a performance built from editing like that of, say, Alan Ladd in Shane where Stevens’ (and perhaps Hornbeck’s) choice of shots create a better performance than Ladd could have given. (LOVE ol’ Alan to this day and he is in some of my favorite films; but he was a self-conscious, limited actor.)
I’m thinking of quick shots in Georgy Girl of Redgrave peering around an object or a door, perhaps as period to a sequence. I’m thinking of editing that creates some of the pace of her performance — repeat, shots and cuts conceived in advance, not done after the fact to improve her performance. She would have been outstanding seen only in long takes. How much of the kind of thing I am referring to is in the writing? Not just in Georgy Girl but in films in general? How many shots, how many cuts are in the director’s storyboard? Or has pre-visualization replaced the storyboard?
In Ace in the Hole, that shot of Kirk Douglas” fist grabbing Jan Sterling’s hair: Did Wilder write that into the script? Did photographer Charles Lang catch it on the set? Did Arthur Schmidt find it in the cutting room? I first read All Quiet on the Western Front after having seen the film several times. I was astonished to find that more than one of the visuals I had long admired in the film (one example, the soldier tearing the male figure from a poster of a couple, leaving just the girl) was not a director’s coup or the idea of a screenwriter. The incident is in Remarque’s original novel.
There are several good performances in Georgy Girl in addition to Redgrave’s. As written, Charlotte Rampling’s character Meredith is so selfish and ultimately vicious that it is remarkable to watch the actress keep us as interested in her as she does. Alan Bates as Jos is a charmer running around in his underwear. Rachel Kempson is delicious as the bored wife of Mr. James. And James Mason as Mr. James himself is superb. He stays in comic mode with perfect pitch for each scene, but the subtlety and range of his characterization reveal him, once again, as one of our finest movie actors ever.
NEXT POST Friday, April 12
See you at the movies,